So today I finished reading Ganache is Not Spelt Ganash, the sequel zine to Macarons Are Not Macaroons. For those not involved in the Melbourne zine scene (and for a guy who until recently volunteered in Melbourne’s best zine store, I am very uninvolved in that scene) Macarons is what I call an evergreen. The vast majority of zines will sell ten or so copies at a speed that won’t justify a second run. That doesn’t lessen them, that’s not how zines work, but there it is. My own evergreen On Sale sold a hundred copies before I stopped counting and shortly thereafter stopped printing it. If you were wondering, I have not managed to recreate that particular fluke.
That is nothing compared to the success Macarons has seen. It was released in early 2010 and still sells around a copy a day. Beck, the author, will be the first to tell you that it owes a chunk of its success to being released just before macarons planted their delicate arses firmly in Melbourne’s zeitgeist. It owes the rest to quality design, stirring honesty and Beck’s irreplaceable voice, which evokes the curmudgeonly, sardonic and profoundly human spirit for which she is one of my dearest friends.
This is probably as good a place as any to disclose that this Beck is the same Beck with which I have watched such gems as Expendables 2 and Jack “It Wouldn’t Be Funny if His First Name Weren’t Jack” Reacharound. Every time we talk about a thing our opinions are 180 degrees away from each other, but that doesn’t stand in our way. So I’m far from an impartial observer, I want to be clear. However, if you read Ganache is Not Spelt Ganash and find yourself disagreeing with me, I will gladly refund the five dollars I believe it is being priced at. I will refund it in the currency of verbal assault, but hey, a refund is a refund.
Anyhow. With all of that out of the way, this is what I think about Ganache.
It is the best zine I have read in fucking years. You know the nice things I said about Macarons up there? They’re true, and the older zine is not diminished by the younger. But put next to Ganache, Macarons seems thoroughly anaemic. Where Macarons was Beck dipping into the bucket of guts that is life and offering us a handful, Ganache is that whole bucket thrown across us.
A person’s pain is a thing they own, and for all that ‘I want to hear your story’ might be the most powerful sentence in the world (said my journalism lecturer) telling that pain is giving a gift. In Ganache, Beck gives without restraint. A bad family dinner alluded to in Macarons is laid out with enough context and detail that it breaks your heart. The good times are there, and they’re good. The bad times are told without flinching or wailing.
If I love one thing about zines, it is honesty. Near the start, Beck warns “you are going to think I am crazy and self-centric and that’s fair, I’m alright with that.” Maybe that’s how she comes across to someone who doesn’t know her. For my money, she takes you into the damn bad place it’s clear her head can be, and in that place, you can see why these things mean so much to her. By the time you’re on the last few pages and a tattooist says “oh, you mean macaroons,” you’re right there shaking your head in time with her.
Beck is a better writer now than she has ever been, and that means she’s bloody good. Yes, there are words in there that sound like other words she probably meant and yes, maybe the story could stand to be a mite tighter (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, whoever is plotting the hideous mess we call Real Life could stand to take Character Arcs 101 and maybe a refresher in Anagnorisis). But I choked up time after time, with joy and grief. At the quarter way point I had the urge to grab strangers by the lapels and shove their faces into my copy of Ganache, shouting “It wants to read this zine. It wants to read the fucking zine!”
When it’s 2020 and you’re calling this the zine of the decade, please remember that I called it today. Yeah, Ganache is Not Spelt Ganash is a little messy sometimes. That’s what happens when you spill your heart’s blood across something.